Most businesses do not understand the Internet and how it works and what it means for them. Some think that
putting themselves on-line makes them up to date and at-one with the Internet. Others think that they can safely ignore
the whole thing. Yet others have completely restructured their companies to become Internet-based.
The truth is that I for one, do not know if anybody really understands the Internet. We are entering a whole new
world that will replace much of the technology that we have taken for granted as being advanced. Our experience,
so far, has shown that some (like eBay) stumble, more by luck than judgement, onto an Internet goldmine. The rest of
us seem to just tag along behind, wishing that we had thought of that first!
Most spend their time coming up with 'solutions' which implies that they had a problem. The truth is that the Internet
solves nothing. But it does change everything for some (and very little for others).
We are revolting!
All revolutions of all sorts begin by destroying more than they create. The French Revolution, the October Revolution,
the Cultural Revolution, the Industrial Revolution - they all began by being very destructive.
The first thing the software revolution did was to destroy the jobs of thousands of filing clerks, typists and then newspaper
type-setters around the World.
But the Internet Revolution will destroy much, much more - and most of it will be things that we consider modern or fairly
modern. In other words, much of the technology of the Twentieth Century.
The Internet is more than the Internet. That is merely the label we put on the beast. In reality it is the
digital packet-switching revolution. And that technology and the accompanying revolution is still in its infancy.
As the songs says, "Here's something you never will regret. No, you ain't seen nothing yet!"
Digital Packet Switching is the mechanism by which we send out single data-packages, addressed to a single receiver using
any path open to us. So when you listen to a music file on-line, some of that may have whizzed round the Globe via Russia
and China, and some may have gone around the other way via New York. You may receive them via a wireless link or via
a broadband connection or even via several different connections all at once.
At the moment, most Internet users are connected via some sort of ADSL / broadband connection that is both slow and still
relies on sounds being transmitted down a wire for the last few meters to the home or office. Very soon, speeds
many thousands of times greater will become available to the consumer and we shall have the all-information society.
This massive information supply will change everything in ways we are only beginning to understand.
You will have access to all information (in the very broadest sense of the word) everywhere. Anything anybody can
hear anywhere, you can hear. Anything any body can see, you can see. Any piece of data anywhere can be made available
to anybody anywhere on Earth. Any doctor will be able to look at any patient. Any engineer can work on any project.
Any artist can help to paint any picture. Any pianist can play any piano, anywhere.
That will all depend on two things -
1. The ability of the two parties to contact one-another.
2. The mechanical-visual devices to see, hear and touch the information being provided.
It follows then that the big growth fields will be information architecture (data wrangling!) and input and output devices.
That means things like robotics, intelligent surfaces, remote sensing and 3D visualisations.
This revolution will mean the probable death of several activities that we today take for granted. Here's my list
of things that I do not imagine will survive another twenty years -
Terrestrial broadcasting (radio and TV will come directly via the net and your WiFi system.)
Telephony (same again, all telephone calls will go via WiFi and there will be no difference between mobile and land line
Rush hour (very few people will commute, because the need to work at a special place will vanish.)
Office work (more and more people will work from home).
Some types of software sales (why sell software and have it copied and pirated, when you can rent it out on line?)
Some types of piracy (on-line software and on-line user verification could put an end to all piracy - but only if the
software companies wanted that to happen!)
Cinemas in their present form (Yes I know people have been predicting the death of the cinema for years and it is still
there, but this time they are up against DVDs and home cinemas with 5.1 sound and a growth in live music on the other.)
Daily printed newspapers (Note 'printed,' the on-line editions will continue as a type of broadcasting.)
Investors are always looking for the Next Big Thing. The trouble is, this Thing gets its price inflated beyond
all common sense and then the price collapses before the new technology has had a chance to develop. This happens to
almost every new technology, from railways to telephones and, in the year 2000, the Internet was no exception.
If a company has believed its own hype and over invested in silly adventures, then it goes belly-up and someone
else steps in and takes over that section of the market.
The truth of the matter is, that we almost certainly have most, if not all of the Next Big Things right now.
We have probably had them for some time. The problem is to recognise them!